Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Waking the Dems Up

The Washington Post has two (count 'em, two) articles on the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, both dealing with the Democratic response to date on the confirmation process. It may be August, and the Congress may be in recess (and the president on a month long vacation), but that nomination is still hanging fire while the White House stonewalls the multiple requests from Democrats for some of Judge Roberts' papers from back in the days he was a Justice Department official.

The first article has to do with the marked dissatisfaction of the more progressive Democrats to the apparent folding of the Senate Democrats on the issue:

Major liberal groups accused Democratic senators yesterday of showing too little stomach for opposing John G. Roberts Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination, saying newly released documents indicate he is much more conservative than many people first thought.

The response was quick and pointed, as two key senators unleashed their sharpest criticisms yet of Roberts and sought to assure activists that the battle is far from over. ...

Some activists would prefer that liberal organizations withhold judgment until the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its hearings to avoid being labeled as knee-jerk obstructionists. But others worry that the nomination process is starting to look like a coronation just as records from the 1980s are beginning to provide grounds for the tough questioning of Roberts and possibly for votes against his confirmation.


What set off the liberal groups was a Washington Post article published August 15,2005 which neatly summarized the rather lackadaisical approach the Democratic members of the Senate Judicial Committee's approach:

"No one's planning all-out warfare," said a Senate Democratic aide closely involved in caucus strategy on Roberts. For now, the aide said, Democratic strategy is to make it clear Roberts is subject to fair scrutiny while avoiding a pointless conflagration that could backfire on the party. "We're going to come out of this looking dignified and will show we took the constitutional process seriously," the aide said. [Emphasis added]

I find it galling that our elected representatives find it more important to look 'dignified' than to do their job. It's clear that at this point our so-called liberal senators don't have a clue as to what their role in this government is, and obviously don't have a clue as to what they should be doing in this situation.

Fortunately, the second Washington Post article offers a quarter to buy that clue. This Op-Ed piece was written by a lawyer and law school professor involved in an important pro-choice Supreme Court case:

The furor over the recent NARAL Pro-Choice America ad about John Roberts and abortion clinics is unfortunate in that it obscures an important issue that raises serious questions: John Roberts's role as deputy solicitor general in the court case Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. In that case, Roberts argued on the side of Operation Rescue for a narrow interpretation of one of our nation's civil rights laws. ...

The case was not about clinic bombings, lawful protest outside abortion clinics or even abortion rights. As Justice John Paul Stevens said in his 1993 dissenting opinion, the case was "about the exercise of Federal power to control an interstate conspiracy to commit illegal acts." ...

We used a Reconstruction-era civil rights law to obtain protection from federal marshals so women could safely enter abortion clinics. The 1871 law was enacted for exactly this purpose: to prevent mobs from conspiring to take away the civil rights of newly freed slaves.

Roberts argued that women should be left to whatever protection the states could provide, however inadequate.

To be fair, in Roberts's Supreme Court argument he pointed out that the Justice Department was defending the proper interpretation of the 1871 law, not Operation Rescue's unlawful conduct. But no courtroom caveat can erase the impact of the federal government's lending its weight on the side of the mob intent on stopping women from exercising a constitutional right. It was a devastating blow.

As with other controversial positions he took as a government lawyer, Roberts should be questioned about whether his particular arguments in Bray represent his own beliefs. More fundamentally, however, he should be asked what role he believes the federal government has in protecting civil rights and women's rights, particularly in the face of state recalcitrance or inadequate resources.


OK, gentlemen got it? Please, do your job, or we'll find someone else who will.

2 Comments:

Blogger Eli said...

I find it galling that our elected representatives find it more important to look 'dignified' than to do their job. It's clear that at this point our so-called liberal senators don't have a clue as to what their role in this government is, and obviously don't have a clue as to what they should be doing in this situation.

This. Is. Why. We. Lose.

Why on Earth would *anyone* vote for a Senator who's afraid of his own shadow?

7:33 PM  
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